20 Oct 2011 4 Comments
On Monday and Tuesday, I was in Ankara attending the 4th Naval Systems Seminar, a highlight for the Turkish naval industry. This is the first part of my impressions from the seminar. In this part I will focus on the general mood of the seminar and will share what I found important from the opening key speeches. In the next part I will try to share my impressions from company presentations I have attended.
If I try to summarize the general mood of the 4th Naval Systems Seminar I would say “Steady as she goes” and “Patience”. The last one actually said by the Undersecretary FoRDefense Industries Mr. Murat Bayar. Why patience? Because the Turkish defense industry and the foreign companies need to be patience in the coming years regarding Turkish naval projects.
I start my impressions of the 4th Naval systems Seminar by telling who was absent from the event:
The most obvious absentee was the Turkish Navy. The number of the officers in uniform were less than the fingers in my one hand.
This absence can be interpreted in two ways: First the navy is pulling itself backwards as a procurement source and redefines its role as the requirement definition authority and end-user. But even then representatives of the navy should be present to exchange ideas, to observer new technologies and to talk about new projects. The second explanation for the absence of the Turkish Navy may be the shock of the Sledgehammer. At a time when 26 out of 48 admirals of the Navy are being bars, the navy may net be in a mood for new acquisition.
The absence of new projects was also very noteworthy. In previous Naval Systems Seminars the companies were very keen to tell you in an excited way about their new solutions, upcoming systems. They were eager to tell you about the things they will be doing in the future. This year most of the companies told us how they are doing things and what they did. The lack of new building projects was remarkable. The only announcement for a new project was the the declaration of the contract signing date for the Moships and Ratship: 28th October 2011.
The Turkish shipyards that are currently constructing ships for the Turkish Navy were also absent: RMK, Yonca-Onuk, Dearsan.
So who was there? The British. They were there and were doing full court press. UKTI DSO was one of the guest supporters of the seminar and provided additional support for the simultaneous translation service. All large-caliber British guns such as BAE Systems, Rolls Royce, BMT Defence Services, MDBA, IHS Janes, UKTI DSO were present was well as representatives of British armed Forces.
The large Turkish defense contractor like Aselsan and Havelsan were present. Also present were shipyards ADIK and Istanbul Shipyard. The other companies attending the seminar were mostly subsystem or component suppliers.
For me it was nice to see that the number of the attending universities was more than previous seminars. This means that more and more young people are interested and doing academical research in defense related issues. If an effective way to convert promising R&D projects from our Universities into commercial products can be found then the future will be bright for the Turkish defense industry.
I believe the speeches made by the Undersecretary For Defense Industries Mr. Murat Bayer and Mustafa Şeker, Head of Naval Systems,Undersecretariat for Defence Industries (UDI), at the opening session were brilliant in capturing the sprit and the mood.
Mr. Bayar started his speech by talking about the long distances covered by Turkish naval shipbuilding since the initiation of the Milgem project. He told that after the decrease in commercial shipbuilding, all the shipyards in Turkey were looking up to the naval projects for survival. But the coming naval projects were not enough for the survival of the shipyards doing business with the Turkish Navy let alone to allow new players to enter into market.
He told that Turkish shipyards must find new markets in order to remain profitable and to stay in business. Mr Bayar added that any military systems, that Turkey owns the intellectual rights was successfully exported. Therefore the key for the successful export of Turkish naval industry lies in creating new designs that can be exported without the need of an export approval from a third country.
Mr. Bayar views propulsion and weapon systems as two key areas where Turkey should invest more. Other than these two, Turkey is capable to produce all the major subsystems of a modern warship.
The last 5 years were good times for the Turkish naval shipbuilding industry. The value of the signed contracts is more than 2 billion USD. At least 5000 people are working on military ship building projects in Turkish yards. But the future is not as rosy as the coming projects are smaller. This is why Mr. Bayar told to the audience that we should have patience and find new markets for our growing naval shipbuilding industry.
Mr. Mustafa Şeker, the newly appointed Head of Naval Systems,UDI, started his speech by explaining the new structure of the undersecretary for Defence Industries. This restructuring of the UDI can be attributed to the growing concern for the life cycle support management of the initiated projects. As the number of the indigenous ships and sub systems used by Turkish Navy increases, the support these ships and the subsystems through their life becomes an important issue. With the new structure inside UDI it is hoped that the institution can now focus more on this issue.
Like Mr. Bayar, Mr. Şeker also advises caution to protect the gained capabilities and trained human force in the shipbuilding industry. He talked about the Turkish naval exports both potential and realized and stressed that the export of Turkish naval products seems to be a valid option for the continuity of the success.
At the end of this speech Mr. Şeker highlighted the following issues as critical for the future of the Turkish naval shipbuilding industry:
The work and the performance of the selected firms, by the strategic goals must be monitored and supported
The sub-contractors should be given opportunities or the sub-systems development and procurement by increasing the proportion of local content
The acquisition of new technologies must be emphasized
Materials/systems suitable for dual use should be developed
Export-oriented international cooperation should be supported